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Sergio Garcia upbeat despite Wachovia loss

Going into the final round at the Wachovia championship on Sunday, Sergio Garcia had a six-stroke lead and looked ready to take home the $1 million winner's cheque.

A final round collapse though ensured it was Vijay Singh's signature on the cheque, Garcia joining Greg Norman, Bobby Cruickshank, Gay Brewer and Hal Sutton as the only players to lose a PGA Tour event after taking a six-shot lead into the last day.

"They say you learn more from your losses than from your wins, so I think I can take a lot of positive things out of this week, and it's going to help me to keep going," said Garcia, who was the first to crack in a playoff.

"As I said before, it always comes down to the same, I know what I'm capable of doing. I don't need anybody to tell me what I'm capable of doing other than my father and a couple friends."

In golf, however, things are seldom as simple as they seem.

Having sat top the leaderboard all week at Quail Hollow, Garcia's game plan appeared straightforward.

"You go out there and you keep the same game plan," he said. "You're aggressive when you know you can go for it and you feel good about it and maybe a bit more conservative when you're not as comfortable."

With five U.S. PGA Tour wins on his resume and nine international victories, Garcia has been a regular fixture among the world's top 10.

But now at 25 and playing in his seventh season on the Tour the unwanted doubts and baggage are slowly starting to pile up.

Despite his talent, Garcia remains firmly entrenched in golf's second tier unable to make the leap to the elite level occupied by the so-called Fab Four of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.

Garcia first came to the attention of the American golf public at the 1999 U.S. PGA championship where he lost the title to Woods by a single stroke but not before winning over millions of fans (and millions of dollars in sponsorship and endorsements) with his youthful exuberance.

The youngest player to ever lead the U.S. PGA championship after firing an opening round 66 at Medinah, the 19-year-old Spaniard was immediately installed as a potential world number one.

Garcia, however, has yet to follow up that promise and his name is now foremost of those to inherit the unwanted moniker "best player never to have won a major", a title formerly held by Mickelson.

In the four majors last year Garcia twice missed the cut and last month made an early exit at Augusta after slumping to an first round five-over 75.

Often moody, Garcia has remained surprisingly positive this season as he continues to chase his first win, extolling the same "things are getting better, I'm close" mantra made popular by Woods as he struggled through a torturous swing overhaul.

"I'm starting to come out of the tunnel," said Garcia. "I feel like things are finally starting to go a bit my way.

"I've always felt good about my game, and it's just a matter of getting it all together.

"It's about giving yourself chances, and the more chances you give yourself then the higher your percentage or your possibility of winning is.

"I don't try to take pressure off myself. I know what I'm capable of doing."

Young and fearless, Garcia has yet to grasp the concept of playing safe, preferring a "a big risk, big reward" philosophy that can often land him in trouble as it did at the Wachovia.

"You see some of the top players, they're a bit scared of hitting driver," said Garcia. "It's like it's going to burn them or something.

"Even if I hit a bad drive, I don't mind just keep ripping the driver and keep getting better and better.

"I guess when you're young you don't think much about it (being afraid)."


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